What is Compliance in Psychology?

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Egoism & Altruism

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Defining Compliance Psychology
  • 0:47 Techniques of Compliance
  • 2:20 Famous Experiments
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
This lesson discusses compliance psychology - the study of why people agree to others' requests. We'll talk about the definition of compliance within psychology and discuss some famous experiments.

Defining Compliance Psychology

If someone tells you to do something, do you always do it? Why? Compliance psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with just this question. Why do people do things when they're asked? Compliance psychology seeks to understand how people can be convinced to do certain things.

Compliance here means a response to direct and covert requests. What do we mean by that? Compliance psychology tries to understand why people respond to a very direct request, like a person face to face, as well as to more covert requests, like when TV commercials successfully convince people to buy one product over another. Compliance psychology is concerned with social influence and conformity.

Techniques of Compliance

So, how do we get people to do things? There are a few key concepts to cover in relation to this question. First, social psychologists have come up with a term called the foot in the door technique. No, really! This is an important principle in social psychological research on compliance. Basically, this involves asking someone to do a small favor for you, in hopes they will be more willing to agree to a bigger favor in the future. You get your foot in the door, and then ask for more.

Let's take an example. Say your friend asks to borrow a couple of dollars for coffee. You agree. A few days later, this same friend asks to borrow money for lunch and a movie. Would you agree? According to the compliance technique, you probably would because your friend warmed you up to this request by asking for a smaller amount of money for coffee. Now, generally this technique works best when the second requests is similar in nature to the first one. So if your friend had asked you to buy her a big screen TV after the coffee, it probably would not have worked.

You could also try the door in the face technique, which is the opposite of the foot in the door technique. In this scenario, you start with a grand request and scale it down right off the bat. Try asking your friend to babysit your nephew every weekday. When they say no, you can ask if they could just take him to the park for a couple hours on Monday. After the everyday request, this one seems much more manageable, whereas if you'd started with the smaller park request, your friend would likely have declined. This technique is often more effective.

Famous Experiments

There are several famous experiments in the field of compliance psychology. First, let's talk about conformity, which means complying with conventions or modeling your behavior based on what you think others want. Sometimes people do things because they want to follow along with a group.

The psychologist Solomon Asch wanted to know if people would conform even when they knew something was wrong. To test this, he created an experiment where a small group of people who were in on the experiment, called confederates, were put into a room with one person, the subject, who did not know what was going on. Asch gave the participants a number of different tests, such as showing them a picture with three lines that were all clearly different lengths. When asked, for example, which was the longest line, the confederates gave largely incorrect answers, and Asch found that the subject followed along, giving incorrect answers about 1/3 of the time. This is because the subject thought he or she was missing some information - the confederates must know better!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account